New World Sourdough: Pretzel Rolls

New World Sourdough is a 2020 cookbook by Bryan Ford. I will not be reproducing Ford’s recipes in my blog. Read his blog, buy his book, support his work.

Pretzel rolls make people excited. If you want to see someone’s eyes light up, tell them you are going to make pretzel rolls. After making Artisan Bryan’s pretzel roll recipe, I have a new appreciation for them.

gif of Stanley from The Office nodding and saying "I like pretzel day."
Me too, Stanley. Me too.

I made a change to the makeup of my Bradley the Starter’s flour food. Instead of 50/50 whole wheat/AP flour, it is now 33/33/33 whole wheat/AP/rye flour. The plan is to increase the rye content, following the advice of many bakers (including Artisan Bryan) who swear by the excellence of a rye starter.

counter with ingredients for pretzel rolls measured out
Future pretzel rolls, with Bradley enjoying his rye food.

This recipe has a very long proofing time, plus the additional step of boiling. As always, I had to write out my breadule in order to wrap my mind around it.

dry erase board with timing and steps for baking written out
Showing my work to keep the breadule in good shape.

The pretzel dough kneaded together quickly and satisfactorily. The small amounts of enriching butter and sugar kept the dough smooth.

Left: freshly kneaded dough in a cambro container. Right: same dough, but bigger after fermentation.
The dough must become big before it becomes tiny.

Dedicated fans know that I love to shape bread into boules or rolls, and these little balls of dough shaped like a dream. I jump at the chance to roll a dozen little fellas at a time.

table with five unshaped blobs of dough. There is flour scattered about and a bench scraper nearby.
Itty bitty gritty committee.
Seven rolls on parchment paper, some covered in oil. A glass dish of olive oil and rubber pastry brush are among the rolls.
Oiling up before the overnight chill.

Making pretzels involves boiling the proofed rolls before baking, just like bagels. Thanks to my bagel experience, I was prepared to avoid certain errors. I made sure the water was at a high boil before adding the chilled rolls. This keeps the water temperature from dropping too much, leaving the dough floating aimlessly and soaking up unwanted liquid.

Left to right: counter with proofed rolls, still covered in cling wrap. Stove with boiling pot, timer set to 45 seconds, slotted spoon, and wire rack on on a baking tray that's lined with a towel. The oven is set to 405.
On your mark, get set, boil.

Instead of transferring boiled rolls directly from the water to the baking sheet (soaking the parchment paper and pooling water on the pan), I briefly drained them on a wire rack. I took this moment to add a few Maldon sea salt flakes for extra crunch. As I learned from my pie class, I added the salt before scoring to keep it from inadvertently infiltrating the crumb. My knife wasn’t as sharp as I would like. A lame would have slid through the rolls more cleanly.

Two baking sheets with seven rolls each, ready to bake.
Boiled, salted, scored, and ready for the oven.

These rolls delighted every sense. The crust had a perfect pretzel bite. The center was soft and pillowy, with the satisfying pretzel chew. They smelled and tasted like an Oktoberfest miracle.

Fourteen baked pretzel rolls on a wire rack.
“Cute as a pretzel roll” is the new “cute as a button.”

Almost better than the eating, is the looking. These rolls are so small and tiny and cute and handheld–they deserve cooing and admiration.

Hand holds both halves of a pretzel roll, showing the airy crumb inside.
Who wouldn’t want to cradle these little babies in the palm of their hand?

These pretzel rolls would make fun sliders, but I just ate them out of hand. Put them on the side of any meal, dip them in mustard, or feed them to squirrels and take cute photos. They are truly versatile and worth the effort.

Up close shot of pretzel rolls on baking rack.
Handheld little fellas with a tough exterior and a soft interior.

Next week: honey oat tin loaf


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